Giving Up Grazing

APPLEGATE — For more than half a century, the Krouse family has been running its cattle each spring into the mountains ringing the Applegate Valley to graze on open range.

Shortly after June 1, the Krouses would begin the cattle drive to the alpine meadows on the southeast side of Grayback Mountain, which rises to 7,000 feet elevation south of their ranch.

"We'd always drive them up, leaving bright and early Sunday morning," recalled third-generation rancher Phil Krouse, 65. "We'd mainly walk in the early days. It was 20 miles. If the cows could walk it, so could we. But increased traffic has precluded that. Now we truck 'em."

"I'm the third generation on the range up there now," he added. "My son John is the fourth and my grandsons — I've got three — are the fifth. It's hard to be the guy that gives it up." 

Krouse has agreed to a proposed $265,500 buyout of his family's historic Big Grayback grazing allotment of 19,703 acres in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. That agreement, pending the approval of Uncle Sam, also would include the family's Billy Mountain grazing allotment of 4,758 acres on U.S. Bureau of Land Management forestland immediately north of the ranch.

Environmental activists and others say that cattle grazing on public lands fouls watersheds, causes erosion and destroys habitat, albeit it's a view that many ranchers have discounted.

"This is the ecological right thing to do," Kerr said. "But it's also fiscally prudent, economically rational, socially just and politically pragmatic.  The point, he said, is that cattle grazing on public lands is facing increasing opposition in the Pacific Northwest. "Phil faces an uncertain future in terms of potential additional restrictions on the amount of grazing allowed for his cattle on those public land.  This is a socially just solution to help him make that transition."

"Bigelow Lakes is a botanical area identified under the forest plan as being unique for a variety of plant species," said John Raby, natural resource staff officer for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest who has worked with Krouse on the Big Grayback allotment.